20 January 2019

Switching gears and changing lanes

On the last day of the year in 2018, I received an incredibly helpful piece of advice at a New Year's Eve party. It came by way of chatting with a real writer, a friendly woman named Ruth, who I had met just hours earlier. She recently found out her novel is going to be published! Wow. I felt so happy for her. Truly! What a huge feat. That's the coolest. I grilled her with writer-y questions and (gasp) confided that I too like to write. (Hmmm. Inner monologue eye roll. You may as well be telling her you are a tennis player. Haven't picked up a racket nor a pen in forever. No, more like, foreeeeevvvvvvvvvveeeeeeeerrrrrrr.) In our chatting I became enthused that I could / should practice writing again. Yet another nudge for me to write stuff down. Well-meaning, dear friends have been telling me to do so for a few months now. I've brushed them off. Funny when a perfect stranger's advice can waken your senses more than your own mother's (husbands, best friends, siblings, etc). Or more like, a perfect stranger gives you advice in a similar vein to what your own mother has been saying all along, and you perk up and take it for what its worth. Humans are funny creatures. (Other lessons: Listen to your mother. Moms can never win. Also, moms never get the credit. Moms are the best. Moms always know.)

Still at this very low point of my writing career (ha. career. as if.), I still think about writing. Almost daily. More than I ever think about playing tennis. Doesn't that count for something? Like a nagging younger sibling, wearing a ball cap backwards and an unhitched strap on her overalls, my wannabe-written-words want attention. In recent years I've programmed myself to ignore the urge to write anything down. Nap. Dishes. Scroll Instagram. Bathe. Read. Podcast. Laundry. Mrs. Maisel. Seinfeld. Meghan Markle news. Bake. Organize a cupboard or two. Rearrange furniture. Of course none of these activities are as satisfying as having written. Like scanning the channels even when there is nothing good on. Its a numbing way of distraction. Distraction of actually caring to put real thought into something. I've sometimes thought, as the writers-guilt gnaws away at me - usually while I try to fall asleep - it's an odd habit to try to will away something you actually want to do. My inner monologue rolls its eyes as I have these cliche writer chit chats to myself. Writers angst; as if this were a real problem in life. I can go on and on. And I have. (Did I do too many research projects on Vincent van Gogh as a teen? Am I this narcissistic / dramatic by nature or nurture?) A brilliant sparkly essay idea comes to me in the morning and I'll have talked myself into, and finally, out of writing it by lunchtime. It's a slow kind of torture we Creatives know well. I'm using that term loosely. (At least I remember how to spell loose vs. lose. Pet peeve.)

To continue lamenting, I've now curated an automatic response of pushing ideas far far down; the corners of a duvet into their cover. Last summer I searched high and low for the best duvet and coordinating duvet cover that had strings and loops which I could then tie up those corners into their places for safekeeping. No wiggling out of place. Stay put. A sure promise that at least one thing in my life was in control. Double knotted duvet. Stay in your lane. Dan was excited to learn this phrase the other day. I smiled to myself as he mentioned it (because I relish in the times when I know things before he does - it's a rare treat) and agreed. Yes, 'stay in your lane' is an extra handy phrase to keep in one's back pocket. Whether it be an athlete tweeting a response to the current President of the United States or a harmless jab in a bit of banter, it is a clever little comeback. (Or maybe a sassy judgement call that I have no business offering.)

One, I realize, am often telling myself in one way or another. Cornering myself into my current situation with a tight knot - no hope of slipping to freedom of maybe, possibly, trying out another 'lane' in life. Staying in your lane comes with benefits, I suppose. Comfort Zones feel so good. I've molded to my lane and my lane has molded to me. Stick to what you know, what you're doing, what your habits are. Stick right here. Remain status quo. Just keep doing what you're doing. No progress, no problem. No rocking the boat. Stay in your lane. Mind your own business. Don't try to think outside the box or push yourself in any way, shape or form. Progress, evolution, improvement... it is for other people.

This has been what I've been telling myself unconsciously. To be honest, my lane isn't doing anything for me anymore. Like the worn out bra that has lost its elasticity and therefore, all its function. The bra that has faded into a useless morning ritual rather than a helpful undergarment. It's time for change. I've been feeling it in my bones and all signs have been nudging me to go ahead and get out of this lane. So when I was chatting with this warmly open Ruth, over plastic cups of rice pudding on New Year's Eve, it resonated again. Another nudge.

Write your second book first.

Wait, tell me again. I heard her the first time. I just liked every word she just said so much. She had just opened my pandora's box. The advice had been discussed during a session of her monthly Writing Club. Yes, yes, of course. Making perfect sense in my mind; the first book has all the weight and pressures to succeed. All your life's courage poured into the pages of that first book. It can't possibly measure up to what you've deemed a first book should / could be. The wish to write and fear of doing so has bullied me into a tight corner. Not writing is easier than writing. Completely frustrating for someone who needs to write - yes, but easier than switching lanes, creating new habits, being courageous, switching gears, stomping out fear, and practicing rough drafts. And getting up early to make time for the thing you want to do most. I'm tucking this rough draft into my blog and promise to wake up early and write again. And again. And again. Until I'm in a new lane I hardly recognize. 2019, I'm counting on you.


Unknown said...

Saw on your Insta that you're blogging again. This makes me so flippin' happy!!! Please forgive a fangirl, but I've missed you and your words. Hip, hip!!

whit said...

Yay Marta!!! I love everything about this!! You’re amazing and inspiring!!! Yay to 2019!!!

Hil said...

I can’t tell you how happy I am that you are back to writing. I love reading your words, hearing your voice in my head and being inspired by the things you say. Also, the staying in your lane and work our bra parts were brilliant. Love this post so much, thank you Ruth for bringing our dear Marta back!!

sunnysblog@gmail.com said...

so happy you're blogging again! I haven't blogged much either but ran into an older post of mine that linked to an organizing post of yours.. I used to link to your blog all the time...knowing my readers would adore your content!

Have a great weekend!!!

Becca Groves said...

Oh yes, please keep writing! And write your second book. There are so many of us ready to enjoy it.

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